I bet you’re wondering how the book you’re holding came to be. Well, let me tell you. Please be
warned that there might be mild spoilers ahead.
One Saturday night, in February 2016, while I had my antennae up for an idea for my third novel, I
came home and turned on the TV. I started aimlessly channel surfing. I must emphasize: this is
exceedingly rare for me to do, given the length of my Netflix queue.
When I landed on the Nashville public access station, I saw something surprising—a grainy horror
movie from the late sixties or seventies. I kept watching. The movie soon cut, as if to a commercial,
to two goth-looking young women on the set of a low-budget public access show. It was Marlena
Midnite and Robyn Graves, the hosts of Midnite Mausoleum, a public access creature feature
syndicated nationwide. The sweet goofiness of the show hooked me. It gave me a warm, safe
feeling, like hanging out with friends and watching a cheesy movie. It would be part of many
Saturday nights to come.
But that night, two characters materialized in my mind. Two young women, with differing
aspirations, who host a creature feature show on their local public access station in Jackson,
Tennessee. Why Jackson, Tennessee, you ask? Because in my day job at that time, I was visiting
Jackson about once a month, and it fascinated me. It was a city that was too big to have the charm
of a small town, but too small to have the amenities of a big city. In short, it was the perfect size for
the kind of story I was writing. After writing about a fictional small town in my first book, The
Serpent King, and about Nashville in Goodbye Days, I liked the idea of this third book’s setting hitting
right in the middle. And I got a free, state-funded research trip there each month.
So I began writing. My characters began speaking to me. I would go on long walks and listen to the
podcast My Favorite Murder and pretend like its hosts, Karen and Georgia, were Josie and Delia. I
named Josie after my music bud, Josie Little, who sang on a couple of my albums back when I was
an aspiring musician. I based Delia on my friend Lizzy Clifford, and I named her after the Delia’s
Closet catalog. I created the character of Arliss after absolutely falling in love with David Harbour’s
character on Stranger Things. In fact, just go ahead and envision Arliss being played by David
Harbour. I don’t normally try to impose my will on the imagination of my readers, but . . . David
Where did Lawson come from? The only sport I enjoy watching is MMA, and all of my books are
basically just referendums on everything I love at that time. I jam as much of what I love into every
book as I can. Also, I needed a great love interest. I’ve never written a true romantic arc into my
books, and I wanted to try my hand at it. Guess who beta-read that storyline to make sure it was
romantic enough? None other than Stephanie Perkins, the Queen of Young Adult Romantic
Comedy. I was in excellent hands. Speaking of excellent hands, David Arnold of Mosquitoland
renown and Brittany Cavallaro of the Charlotte Holmes series were also two of my beta readers. As
my public access creature feature consultant, I had Cameron McCasland, who was the director and
producer of the Dr. Gangrene Show on Nashville’s public access station.
I wrote Buford into the book after I realized that none of my characters in my other two books had
pets. That felt wrong. So I gave Josie and Lawson dogs. I had to research whether a dog is capable
of pooping on stairs. Writing Buford felt so good and right that at age 40, I became a dog owner for
the first time. A little red Havanese named Greg. In case you were wondering, I no longer need to
ask whether a dog is capable of pooping on stairs. I now know firsthand that the answer is yes.
How about Jack Divine? Who or what inspired this orange-skinned, name-dropping, egomaniacal,
washed-up scam artist who cons people with huge promises and is deeply indebted to the Russian
mob? Oh . . . no one. I just . . . completely invented him. Yep.
My first two books, The Serpent King and Goodbye Days, have moments of humor but are primarily
weighted toward darker, heavier subjects. I soon realized that in writing about two girls who have a
DIY show where they do skits with Frankenstein puppets, stage dog weddings, and have
spontaneous dance parties, this book wanted to be the inverse of my previous two books—weighted
toward comedy, with moments of darkness and heaviness. I hope it’s a welcome departure in this
sense. But really, this isn’t a book about TV shows or horror movies. It’s a book about the deepest
sort of friendship, and so it’s not actually a departure at all.
I hope you have as much fun spending time with Josie Howard (aka Rayne Ravenscroft) and Delia
Wilkes (aka Delilah Darkwood) as I did writing them. Making something with someone you love
weaves a golden thread through the fabric of your togetherness. I tried to weave that golden thread
into the friendship between Josie and Delia, with their Midnite Matinee. What they make is small and
unspectacular, but sometimes small and unspectacular things can be a universe.